Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 16, 2013

Preparing for the unthinkable

Charles Russell Elementary scene of school shooting drill

ASHLAND — The scenario that played out at Charles Russell Elementary School on Tuesday morning wasn’t real, but it was frighteningly plausible.

Dozens of first responders from multiple law-enforcement, fire and emergency medical services agencies participated in a full-scale exercise designed to gauge their readiness to react to a school shooting situation.

The make-believe situation involved three shooters armed with automatic weapons entering the school by force, seizing control of all entrances and exits, pouring gasoline in the cafeteria floor and then calling 911 with instructions for the police not to respond or they would burn down the school with everyone inside it. One of the perpetrators then lights the gas. (A smoke machine was used to simulate the fire.)

Beyond that, no one knew how the drill would play out. The actors playing the gunmen were instructed to challenge all police officers and to not comply with any of their verbal commands. The officers’ responses were determined solely by the actions of the players.



The final death toll — again, make-believe — was seven, including two of the three shooters. The third gunmen surrendered after officers burst into a classroom where he was holding seven hostages, including a teacher’s aide, with a gunshot wound to the chest.

 That perpetrator — played by a FADE Task Force officer who didn’t want his name published — said he gave up because he was out of ammo, and because he didn’t want to endanger the lives of the hostages.

He also admitted he probably should have been “dead” long before the officers stormed the room. Holding up the protective face shield he wore during the exercise, he pointed to a blue splotch in the right eye area where Catlettsburg Assistant Police Chief Cameron Logan nailed him with a paintball while the two were exchanging gunfire down a hallway.

In addition to the seven casualties, there were 15 injuries, ranging from critical to non-life-threatening, Boyd County EMS Director Tom Adams said. Part of the exercise involved setting up triage area outside the school so the wounded could be assessed prior to being transported for medical treatment.

Those who played victims had highly realistic “injuries” applied by Gregory Priddy and Tracey Crawford, the EMS liaisons at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and King’s Daughters Medical Center, respectively.

Kristy Bolen, coordinator of the Boyd County Medical Reserve Corps, played the role of a 7-year-old who killed in the incident. To prepare her for the part, Priddy and Crawford gave her a bullet wound near the base of her neck and dusted her face with powder to give her skin a pale appearance.

Bolen played her part convincingly, lying motionless in the hallway near the school’s entrance.

Well, make that nearly motionless.

“My leg fell asleep at one point and I had to move it,” she said.

Even though she knew the events were not real, Bolen said she found it “unnerving” and could feel herself tense up when the weapons started firing inside the building.

But, as the mother of a 6-year-old, she said she found it comforting emergency responders were training for a situation involving an attack on a school.

No actual weapons were allowed in the training area. Police officers had to check their duty weapons at a station set up at nearby AK Steel Sports Park, and even civilian participants were searched prior to being allowed to enter the school. Officers participating in the exercise were given AirSoft guns that shoot plastic pellets.

According to Capt. Jamie Stephens, commander of the Ashland post of Kentucky State Police, the reason for the ban on actual weapons in the “hot zone” was that every year, police officers are killed by live fire during training exercises. Requiring everyone to check their guns was a precautionary measure aimed at preventing such a tragedy, he said.

Stephens said he was pleased with the outcome of Tuesday’s exercise.

“Anytime you get this many people and this many agencies working together, it has to be a success,” he said. “And it showed no matter what challenge is placed on these law-enforcement officers, they’re ready to take care of it.”

Stephens said the lessons emergency responders learned during the exercise could be applied to other active-shooter situations in public venues such as shopping malls and movie theaters.

Ashland Independent Schools Safe Schools Coordinator Mark Swift said the district practices lockdown procedures at all its school consistently, but Tuesday’s drill kicked the realism up several notches.

“It was a glimpse of reality” for school personnel who took part in the exercise,” he said.

 KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014

  • Shay receives 38 years for fatal shooting

    Casey R. Shay, 27, of Morehead, was sentenced Monday to 38 years in prison for the fatal shooting last year of Cassandra M. “Cassie” Owens, 21.

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416homegarden.jpg Space not problem with home garden

    Growing your own dinner is not a concept lost on Kenny Imel.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone